The Best Vanilla Cake I’ve Ever Had

With its outstanding vanilla flavor, pillowy soft crumb, and creamy vanilla buttercream, this is truly the best vanilla cake I’ve ever had. And after 1 bite, I guarantee you’ll agree.

Vanilla cake with vanilla frosting

Out of all the cake recipes on my website, there’s a glaring absence. There’s white cake with a pristine soft crumb, vanilla naked cake with a flavorful tight crumb, and checkerboard cake with a whimsical design.

What about a classic 9 inch vanilla cake draped in vanilla buttercream? I already have homemade vanilla cupcakes and a 6 inch vanilla cake covered. Now in all its crowning glory (and after plenty recipe testing catastrophes), I present you with cake perfection:

This is the best vanilla cake I’ve ever had.

Vanilla cake with 3 layers

What Makes it the Best Vanilla Cake?

Let’s count the ways!

  1. Soft, light crumb from cake flour
  2. Fluffy from extra egg whites
  3. Buttery and cakey from creamed butter
  4. Stick-to-your-fork moist from eggs & buttermilk
  5. Extra flavor from pure vanilla extract

Not to mention its versatility: This vanilla cake batter is strong enough for shaped cakes, tiered cakes, and holds up beautifully under fondant. Use this batter for vanilla cupcakes, bundt cake, or even piñata cake. It’s classy enough for a wedding celebration, but unassuming enough for a big family dinner.

Vanilla cake slice

Behind the Vanilla Cake Recipe

After years of cake successes and flops, I’m confident in this homemade vanilla cake. During my recipe testing, I combined my white cake recipe and naked cake recipe. These are two reader favorites and I knew they’d be the best starting point. At first there were too many eggs and I quickly learned sifting cake flour was NOT doing any favors.

You need the following POWER INGREDIENTS:

  1. Cake Flour: If you want a fluffy and soft bakery-style vanilla cake, cake flour is the secret. The cake will be denser and heavier using all-purpose flour. If needed, you can use this cake flour substitute.
  2. Eggs & 2 additional egg whites: 3 whole eggs provide structure, moisture, and richness. 2 extra egg whites keep the cake light and airy. I don’t recommend using 4 whole eggs; stick to the 3 egg & 2 egg white combination.
  3. Baking Powder & Baking Soda: Use both. Remember why? Using enough baking powder to give these layers height gave the cake a bitter aftertaste. Baking soda allows us to use less baking powder.
  4. Buttermilk: Buttermilk is an acidic ingredient and baking soda requires an acid to work. Plus buttermilk yields an EXTRA moist cake crumb. See recipe note about the alternative.

For more prominent vanilla flavor, use homemade vanilla extract. (What a fun DIY gift!) This vanilla cake batter is moderately thick and fits perfectly in 3 9-inch cake pans.

Vanilla cake batter

Do you know how to level a cake? Let me help. It’s really easy. You can use a fancy cake leveler, but I use a serrated knife. Carefully slice off the tippy top of the cooled cake layers, creating a flat surface. Leveling cakes doesn’t require a ruler, talent, or any mathematical equations. Instead, just use your eyes, hands, and a knife.

Leveling the cake layers promises a straight and sturdy layer cake.

How to level a layer cake

Vanilla frosting on vanilla cake

How Much Frosting Between Cake Layers?

I always eyeball the amount of frosting between cake layers, but I measured when I decorated the pictured cake. The vanilla buttercream recipe below yields about 6 cups of frosting. I recommend you use about 1.5 heaping cups of buttercream between each cake layer and reserve the last 3 cups for outside the cake.

Cake Decoration Inspiration: For a simple look, stick with vanilla buttercream, fresh berries, and mint sprigs. You can also decorate with chocolate buttercream (I recommend this amount), rainbow sprinkles, or even beautiful buttercream flowers.

Top of a vanilla cake

Homemade Vanilla Cake Success Tips

Learn from my mistakes and bake the best cake on the 1st try!

  1. Follow the recipe closely. Use each power ingredient listed.
  2. Use room temperature ingredients. The batter mixes together evenly when all the cake ingredients are roughly the same temperature. This also reduces the risk of over-mixing and over-baking. Set out your ingredients 1 hour before beginning. Read here for more information.
  3. Line your cake pans with parchment. Place your cake pans on a large sheet of parchment paper. Trace the bottom of the cake pan with a pencil. Cut parchment paper into rounds. Grease the pan and the parchment paper. Parchment paper rounds guarantee seamless removal from the pan because the cake slides right out.
  4. Cool cake layers completely. I’ve tried taking shortcuts by assembling a layer cake with semi-warm cake layers. Well, the frosting completely melts and causes the entire cake to collapse. Make sure each layer is cool– refrigerate or freeze the layers if you need to!
  5. Refrigerate decorated cake. After frosting the cake, place it in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. This is optional, but it sets the frosting and cake layers. You’ll get beautifully clean slices because the crumbs are cool and tight.

Great read: Check out Tessa’s Top 10 Best Layer Cake Tips.

Vanilla cake

Finding the perfect vanilla cake recipe requires a celebration. Luckily we have cake!!!

More Classic Cake Recipes

And here is my perfected vanilla cupcakes recipe.

Print
Vanilla cake

Best Vanilla Cake

  • Author: Sally
  • Prep Time: 35 minutes
  • Cook Time: 25 minutes
  • Total Time: 4 hours
  • Yield: 12 servings
  • Category: Dessert
  • Method: Baking
  • Cuisine: American

Description

With its outstanding vanilla flavor, pillowy soft crumb, and creamy vanilla buttercream, this is truly the best vanilla cake I’ve ever had. Make sure you read through the recipe and recipe notes before beginning.


Ingredients

  • 3 and 2/3 cups (420g) cake flour* (spoon & leveled)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (345g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 2 cups (400g) granulated sugar
  • 3 large eggs + 2 additional egg whites, at room temperature*
  • 1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract (yes, Tbsp!)
  • 1 and 1/2 cups (360ml) buttermilk, at room temperature*

Vanilla Buttercream

  • 1 and 1/2 cups (345g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
  • 6 cups (720g) confectioners’ sugar
  • 1/3 cup (80ml) whole milk or heavy cream
  • 1 and 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C). Grease three 9-inch cake pans, line with parchment paper, then grease the parchment paper. Parchment paper helps the cakes seamlessly release from the pans.
  2. Make the cake: Whisk the cake flour, salt, baking powder, and baking soda together. Set aside.
  3. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the butter and sugar together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 3 minutes. Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula as needed. Beat in the 3 eggs, 2 egg whites, and vanilla extract on high speed until combined, about 2 minutes. (Mixture will look curdled as a result of the egg liquid and solid butter combining.) Scrape down the sides and up the bottom of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the dry ingredients just until combined. With the mixer still running on low, pour in the buttermilk and mix just until combined. You may need to whisk it all by hand to make sure there are no lumps at the bottom of the bowl. The batter will be slightly thick.
  4. Pour batter evenly into cake pans. Weigh them to ensure accuracy, if desired. Bake for around 23-26 minutes or until the cakes are baked through. To test for doneness, insert a toothpick into the center of the cake. If it comes out clean, it’s done. Allow cakes to cool completely in the pans set on a wire rack. The cakes must be completely cool before frosting and assembling.
  5. Make the frosting: In a large bowl using a hand-held mixer or stand mixer fitted with a whisk or paddle attachment, beat the butter on medium speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Add confectioners’ sugar, milk, vanilla extract, and salt with the mixer running on low. Increase to high speed and beat for 3 minutes. Add more confectioners’ sugar if frosting is too thin, more milk if frosting is too thick, or an extra pinch of salt if frosting is too sweet.
  6. Assemble and decorate: Using a large serrated knife, slice a thin layer off the tops of the cakes to create a flat surface. Discard (or crumble over ice cream!). Place 1 cake layer on your cake stand, cake turntable, or serving plate. Evenly cover the top with about 1 and 1/2 cups of frosting. Top with 2nd cake layer and evenly cover the top with about 1 and 1/2 cups of frosting. Top with the third cake layer. Spread the remaining frosting all over the top and sides. I use and recommend an icing spatula to apply the frosting.
  7. Refrigerate cake for at least 1 hour before slicing. This helps the cake hold its shape when cutting.
  8. Cover leftover cake tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Notes

  1. Make Ahead & Freezing Instructions: The cake layers can be baked, cooled, and covered tightly at room temperature overnight. Likewise, the frosting can be prepared then covered and refrigerated overnight. Let the frosting sit at room temperature to slightly soften for 10 minutes before assembling and frosting. Frosted cake or unfrosted cake layers can be frozen up to 2-3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator and bring to room temperature before decorating/serving.
  2. 9×13 Inch Cake: I recommend using my white cake batter instead. Both use similar ingredients and produce a deliciously light vanilla cake. See recipe notes for the 9×13 inch version.
  3. 2 Layer Cake: I recommend using my 2 layer white cake batter instead. Both use similar ingredients and produce a deliciously light vanilla cake.
  4. Bundt Cake: This vanilla cake batter will fit into a 10-cup or larger bundt pan. I’m unsure of the exact bake time (likely around an hour), but use a toothpick to test for doneness. Same oven temperature.
  5. Cupcakes: Fill cupcake liners 2/3 full. Bake at 350°F (177°C) for 19-21 minutes. Yields about 3 dozen. Or try my vanilla cupcakes recipe.
  6. Cake Flour: To prevent a dry-tasting cake, make sure you are spooning and leveling the flour or weighing it. For the best results, I strongly recommend cake flour. You can find it in the baking aisle and I have many more recipes using it. If you can’t get your hands on cake flour, you can make a homemade cake flour substitute.
  7. Eggs: 3 whole eggs provide structure, moisture, and richness. 2 extra egg whites keep the cake light and airy. I don’t recommend using 4 whole eggs; stick to the 3 egg & 2 egg white combination. Here are recipes using leftover egg yolks.
  8. Buttermilk: If needed, you can use whole milk mixed with 1 teaspoon of white vinegar or fresh lemon juice instead of buttermilk.
  9. Why is everything at room temperature? All refrigerated items should be at room temperature so the batter mixes together easily and evenly. Read here for more information.
  10. Want chocolate frosting instead?: I recommend the recipe/amount of chocolate frosting I use for Piñata Cake.
  11. Sprinkle Cake: To make a sprinkle cake, fold about 3/4 cup (120g) of sprinkles into the cake batter. Avoid nonpareils (the little balls), which tend to bleed their color.

Keywords: cake, vanilla cake, vanilla frosting, baking, birthday cake

Vanilla cake

755 Comments

  1. I made this cake for the first time for my child’s birthday. It was very well liked. Cake is lovely in texture and taste even plain. I had a few tunnels, will remember to rap pan on counter before baking next time. Glad for the Q&A about baking cakes in batches. I had only 2 pans!
    I chickened out (calories) and made only 2/3 recipe frosting and used 1 cake layer separately to snack on plain. I might try dividing batter into just 2 pans next time and get 2 taller layers. That would be another way to use 2/3 recipe frosting.

  2. Made this last night and my family loves. I have quite the picky bunch when it comes to cake and so this is definitely a keeper. I didn’t do so well on the frosting, alas a store bought was used. I will have to work on that. Great recipe!

  3. This cake was PERFECT. I would love to make it into a lemon cake, if possible. Could you make a recommendation for that? Thank you either way!

  4. I made this cake yesterday. We loved it. I would like to use it for my son’s first birthday. We have roughly 16 people attending. So I was thinking of maybe doing a second cake and stacking? Would that be possible with this recipe. Or do you think this cake would be sufficient for that many people? I don’t want to not have enough for everyone.

    1. I’m so glad you loved it! This recipe says it yields 12 servings – but I admit they are large servings! Depending on the size you cut your cake pieces you should have enough for 16 🙂

  5. I love this recipe – the final outcome is delicious, moist and light vanilla cake. For me, I found it took at least 60 minutes to cook at 180 degrees Celsius in a fan forced oven, I also use over thermometers. Thank you

  6. I’m looking for a cake to turn into a 5-6 layer pink ombre cake. Would this recipe work for that? I would play around with the layers to make them a little thinner, but I wonder if it would have the strength to hold the layers and frosting?

    thanks!

  7. Quick question… Can I use this recipe for a naked cake? I like the idea of the egg whites for added softness plus the cake flour. But I’m wondering if there is a reason your Vanilla Naked Cake recipe doesn’t use that. Would this be too soft & messy when cutting? I’m so afraid of a cake that’s not soft… I plan to use a mascarpone cream filling & fruit to keep everything very light.

    On a side note, I have been using (and loving) your site for years. Thank you so much for all your dedication and sharing your talents! I can only imagine how much work has gone into such beautiful photos and carefully cultivated recipes. Thank you….

    1. Thank you so much for trusting my recipes and reading my blog, Laura! This is SO NICE to read this morning. I really appreciate it!

      You can use this vanilla cake recipe for a naked cake. My naked cake is still plenty soft and moist, but I find using extra egg whites (instead of whole eggs) add a lovely fluffy texture. Both are fantastic cakes.

      1. How would a 9″ x 13 ” work? I want to make this for a child’s party, and think it would be easier to have a cake that I can cut into squares.

    1. It rest doesn’t need it. I made this for my daughters birthday party just last night, and it was deliciously moist.

  8. I made this cake for our kids’ birthday party. I decided to do two layers and made the rest into cupcakes since there were going to be lots of little kids that preferred smaller portions. I followed the recipe to a T, except I had to diy my own cake flour. This was LITERALLY the best vanilla cake! Every single guest commented on how delicious it was. As a chocoholic I hadn’t set my hopes very high but boy was I wrong! I frosted it with your chocolate buttercream frosting and got rave reviews on that too. I will definitely be making this cake over and over again!

  9. Hi!
    Is there any way to adjust the recipe for a 6x9x12? I’m making this for a friend’s wedding and am wondering how to adjust.

    Thanks!

      1. Hi! Thanks for getting back to me so soon! I am making a 3 tier cake with the tiers being 6 in, 9 in, and 12 in, respectively. It will be 3 cake layers per tier. I just want to know how to adjust for each size of pan.

  10. Hi Sally!
    Can I make this using three 10” round pans? Will there be enough batter or should I make an extra batter?
    Thanks so much,
    Gretchen

    1. Hi Gretchen! There will be enough batter. The cakes will be a little thinner than pictured and take a little less time to bake through.

  11. Can i usd this same batter for cupcakes? I know cook time will be doffernr probably 15-17 minutes. But just wondering if it’s possible, before I try it myself lol.

    1. Sally, you are a genius. Vanilla cake with buttercream frosting is my all-time favorite cake, and that’s generally because I love the frosting and consider the cake to be secondary. That will never be the case again with THIS vanilla cake. THIS vanilla cake is brilliant. THIS vanilla cake is amazing. THIS vanilla cake is so good on its’ own that it didn’t need frosting, and that is practically blasphemy coming from me. THIS vanilla cake is the BEST vanilla cake I’ve EVER had in my 40+ years of trying vanilla cake recipes; moist, sweet and with an amazingly tender crumb that makes it good enough to eat plain. I will never have to search for another vanilla cake recipe. Thank you so much for giving me the last vanilla cake recipe I will ever need to try.

  12. I made the cake yesterday and found it a bit sweet. If I reduce the amount of sugar in the batter the next time will it impact the final result?

  13. Before I try this recipe, can you tell me if you would recommend a convection oven for it? If so what temperature and cook time? Thank you!

    1. I only bake with the conventional setting. If you want to try the convection setting the general rule is to reduce the temperature by 25 degrees for the same bake time. Let me know if you try it.

  14. I made this cake for my childs birthday. It was really so moist and delicious!
    Can i use cream cheese frosting over this cake and how will it be?

  15. Im in the process of making this cake now,
    I am super excited to see how it turns out! Your site is truly the only site I go to for recipes. I love to bake so I love to gain knowledge through your tips. I love how you break everything down and explain why you do things. I have learned so much through your site and share your tips with others. ❤️

  16. Hi Sally!!
    Thanks for this wonderful recipe and for your great blog! I love it!!
    I need to make this cake for 25-30 people… please give me your advice! I was thinking on double the ingredients (for the cake batter) and make the same 3 layers, using a 10 in pan… do you think it can work?.
    Thanks!!!

    1. I have not tested this recipe in 10 inch pans but let me know if you try it. Doubling it will likely be too much batter for 3 larger layers but you can always make cupcakes out of the extra batter! Also as a general rule I suggest you make any cake batter twice rather than doubling it (too much batter in your mixer leads to over or under mixing!).

  17. looking forward to trying this recipe out; not sure what size pans I will be using yet and I know I want to make a few cupcakes as well. How much batter should go in the pan? 1/2 full, 2/3 full?

    1. I personally do not– if I’m lining with parchment paper (cut into rounds) I do not flour them. I grease the pan and the parchment, then pour the batter on top.

  18. Hi! Would like to make this cake for a graduation with cream cheese frosting but have a few questions first. I would like to put mixed berries or strawberries in between each layer. Should I macerate the berries? Should the berries go directly on the cake layer with the frosting on top or the other way around? So excited to try this..thanks for your beautiful recipes!

    1. Sounds delicious! I usually just layer sliced berries on top of the frosting between the layers because it’s easier, but you can certainly use macerated berries for additional flavor if you wish!

  19. Wow!!! This cake is perfect. I’ve been searching for the best vanilla cake recipe for years and am glad I tried this one. The search is over! !! It’s so good! I will recommend this recipe to everyone!

  20. Hi Sally, many thanks for your recipes, after having trouble for so long to produce the best buttercream icing i have finally nailed it thanks to your recipes.
    Used the room temperature ingridients and it worked and i tried them 1st on your vanilla cupcakes.
    This was in preparation for my kids birthday cakes that i will be making.
    Thank you.

  21. Made this recipe with sprinkles for both a cake and cupcakes for a 40th birthday with chocolate frosting. So AMAZING! Your recipes never fail me! 🙂

  22. Made this as one of three cakes for my daughter’s birthday party (big family). It was fantastic! I actually snuck it of the dessert table so I could make sure could bring some home, as everyone was grabbing extra slices for themselves! Huge huge hit!

  23. Just made the recipe, I weighed the ingredients. I did cook it in smaller pans, only filling them half way. I tapped them before putting them in the oven. Taste absolutely delicious. Only thing was had a lot of air bubble pockets. I’m thinking this might effect the ability to stack the layers. Wondering what I can do to prevent all the air bubbles next time I make this?

  24. HI Sally, I love this cake and am making it for my sons first birthday. Am I able to make the frosting ahead? If so, how do I store it? In the refrigerator? Thank you!

    1. Hi Amy! Yes, prepare the frosting ahead of time. Cover and store it in the refrigerator. Before using, mix it with your mixer for 30-60 seconds to loosen it up a bit because the butter in the buttercream will have solidified in the fridge. You can even add a splash of milk or cream if needed.

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